I haven't written a blog post - a proper blog post, y'know, one that wasn't just plugging a new book release - for what feels like an eternity. And I guess the reason for that is I haven't had a great deal to say. And I've also been swaying back and forth between whether I should actually vent my feelings towards something I've become increasingly disillusioned with over the past year or so, or just keep my mouth shut and get on with things. There are pros and cons on both sides of that argument, but what the hell, I'm talking, because I've also, over the past few months, ceased to care about what people think. I have a voice. I have an opinion. I'm using it, and giving mine.
So, just what is it I've become increasingly disillusioned with? The publishing world, that's what. Now, when I started out almost 6 years ago I was self-publishing, having an agent didn't really matter, and things were good. But at the back of my mind there was always that urge to submit to publishers and see if my writing was good enough to be accepted. And it was. Eventually. I signed with a publisher, have had five books published through them and... did it change my life? Nope. Not a bit. Did it make me more of a successful author? Nope. Am I happy I had the experience? Yes, and no. But what it did open my eyes to was a world I'm beginning to realise I don't really fit into.
Over the years my writing has changed. Significantly. I started out writing what I thought readers and publishers wanted - contemporary romance, rom-coms, fun and flirty lighthearted love stories, you know the kind of thing. And then I realised I hated every second of writing that stuff. So I moved on to what I really wanted to write - tougher, edgier stories where love isn't perfect and neither are the characters. But what I'm fast learning now is, in Britain anyway, those kind of stories don't always sell that well. We seem to be stuck in a time when anything with a cottage on the cover or stories involving holiday romances/country cafes/cakes and baking... I can't be doing. Seriously. OK, that stuff might sell but let's face it, you hype anything enough and people will buy it. I just can't go there. I can't write "nice" romance. I can't. I've tried, I've done it, but I didn't really enjoy it. It isn't where my heart lies. They aren't the stories I want to tell. I want to take risks, try new genres, push myself to the next level. But in doing that it makes me quite difficult to work with, in terms of my publisher, because I'm just not writing what works best for them right now. In fact, the last book I wrote for them, I was never 100% happy with the way it was marketed. I let myself be talked into a cover I never felt would really work, but they said it would make the book stand out. It didn't. And I actually think it gives a completely wrong impression of the story. The cover's too bright; it makes the book look like a comedy romance, a more fun story that it is. It isn't a fun story. It's a tough, edgy story and I just don't think it's been portrayed or put out there in the right way at all. I tried contacting my editor to talk about this, but quite frankly I think I'd have more luck finding that proverbial needle in a haystack. Their lack of communication has been pretty shocking in my opinion, but then, I'm not one of their "big hitters". And even though that's one of my books out there and I'm just sitting back and letting it fade into oblivion; and I know I should fight to make that book what I want it to be, but, really, it's too exhausting. You have no idea. I just want to write.
You see, for me, the publishing world has become a bit like school - if you're not one of the cool kids, ie: an author who sells loads/has an agent/goes to all the parties and conferences etc., then you're kind of left out in the cold. You're not one of the gang. I mean, I've had authors who I've known from the time I started out doing this - we started out together, we talked, helped each other on, supported each other. But now they've got big book deals, agents, a high author profile, and all of a sudden we just don't comnmunicate anymore. I'm still down there at the bottom of the pile, you see; still struggling to get my name known and my books read. To them I'm not successful. Because I don't turn up to every author event and gathering going? To start with, most of them are held down in London or somewhere down south. I'm northern. And I don't have a lot of money. I can't afford to travel to London every few months for two days of mutual back-slapping and touting yourself around publishers and agents, or trying your hardest to befriend every book blogger/reviewer you can. Sorry, but that just isn't me. I never did get on with big groups of women, I can't take the bitching. And yes, I know that in me not networking or getting to know other authors/bloggers etc. it means I'll probably always stay at the bottom of that literary pile, but, I don't actually care. At the minute. Everything just seems so cliquish, and I hate cliques, always have done. I think I've just been so disillusioned by the way things are done that, for this year at least, all of that crap can take a back seat. This year I've gone back to self-publishing with a vengeance. And I'm writing the kind of books I want to write. And if there are any cupcakes in any of my books you can guarantee they're either being thrown at somebody, or smeared all over someone's body in some hot, kinky sex session. I don't do "nice" anymore. Which is half the reason no bloggers or reviewers seem to want to read my books, but there you go. You can't please everyone.
You see, when all's said and done, I chose to become an author because I love writing. I didn't decide to do this for the money (just as well..), or the fame (I hate being the centre of attention). I did it because, from the time I could read, I've always wanted to write. Simple as that. And I have the utmost respect for indie authors everywhere who have the guts to take control and do things their way. I, personally, don't want an agent if all they're going to do is tell me to write a certain genre because that's what's going to sell. Conveyor belt writing? Yeah... no thanks. And I know there are authors out there who are doing just that - not really writing what they want to write, but writing what they're being told will sell. Whatever floats your boat, but that really isn't for me. If I can't truly feel a character; if I'm not truly enjoying writing a book, then that's going to show in the story. So, if you like reading about country castles and cosy cafes, etc. etc... great. All that stuff's out there. But for me, I'm sticking with women who need to fight hard for what they believe - both physically and mentally. I'm sticking with the tattooed bad boys who ride bikes and deal with the devil. And I may only sell a handful of copies of all of those books, but, do you know what? I took the pressure off myself. I stopped trying to compete in a world I'm never really going to fit into. I stopped worrying and beating myself up because I wasn't a "best seller". I've been a best seller, in the past, with one of my more generic rom coms. So I've been there and done that. Now I just want to write. Does that make me seem like I have no ambition? I've got lots of that, believe me. Am I not working as hard as all of those authors with their awards and accolades and book deals? I work bloody hard. I just don't need awards, or editors telling me how amazing I am or continuous high rankings to make me feel better about myself. I know how much work goes into my books. I'm just at a point now where I'm taking a step back from the crap and allowing myself to enjoy writing again, without the pressure. For some people, all that crap actually works. They enjoy it. For me, it doesn't work, and I hate it. But that's just me. That's just my experience. I wasn't one of the lucky ones.
Will I ever submit to a publisher again? Maybe. But we seem to be returning to a time when it seems increasingly important to have an agent, so, that option is probably becoming less and less available to me. For now, though, I'm quite happy to sit at my desk and write as many books as I can because the stories I want to tell, they're showing no signs of drying up...